New Billie, ‘True Blue’ and a Deep Dive (of sorts)

Track by track: Hit Me Hard And Soft 

*Content warning: references to sex* 

Billie Eilish’s highly anticipated third studio album HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (HMHAS) produced and written with her brother FINNEAS dropped on May 17, adding 10 new tracks to the global superstar’s discography. 

This body has infusions of previous albums – most notably ties to her debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? released in 2019 – but goes out on a limb to explore new creative concepts with poise and elegance. 

The album kicks off with ‘SKINNY’, a gentle track brimming with Eilish’s signature harmonies that both sonically and lyrically resemble the track ‘What Was I Made For’ that featured in the soundtrack for Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster film Barbie. 

This song tackles ideas of authenticity as well as self and perceived images of herself including the transition from adolescence to adulthood and the associated conventions young artists are expected to uphold.  

Lines like “am I acting my age now? / am I already on the way out?” comment on the way audiences hold youthfulness as a measure of relevancy while simultaneously subverting that expectation. ‘SKINNY’ finishes with a crescendoing instrumental run that bleeds seamlessly into the next song. 

‘LUNCH’ follows on with a dive into exploration of queerness and identity with a more explicit undertone that has connected well with fans on social media in the lead up to its release. Though the song is the shortest on the record, from the outset this track has punched above its weight in terms of anticipation among the LGBTQIA+ community.  

The song colloquially euphemises vaginal oral sex via the lines “I could eat that girl for lunch / yeah, she dances on my tongue”, a repeated phrase in the chorus.  

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Eilish discussed the relationship she has with her sexuality in greater depth and how ‘LUNCH’ helped her discover who she is herself. The song aptly finishes with a series of layered short breaths (you interpret that as you will). 

One of the album’s soundbites that quickly found a home in TikTok’s algorithm is the first half of the chorus of ‘CHIHIRO’. The short snippet ‘not today, maybe tomorrow / open up the door” that soundtracked users’ videos is just a small part of this song’s charm. This line has been read as a nod towards coming out and coming to terms with one’s identity, but there is much more in the song that hints towards its inspiration. 

 The title is a reference to a character – Chihiro ‘Sen’ Ogino – from Studio Ghibli’s 2001 film Spirited Away. The song finishes with a dazzling array of synths underscoring faint layered vocals bringing a purposeful depth full of tension to bring us into the most “pop” track on the track list.   

As Eilish’s career and songwriting have developed, listeners have heard the singer’s plight with mental health such as in ‘everything i wanted’ and complex societal issues in ‘TV’ and ‘xanny’, but this new album brings into the mix a new adventure; love. ‘BIRDS OF A FEATHER’ teems with appreciation for community and connection whilst proclaiming adoration for the kind of love that last beyond life, into death. 

The bright synths that underpin this track bring a positive and full focus perspective to how Eilish positions relationships. The chorus – “I’ll love you ’til the day that I die / ’til the day that I die / ’til the light leaves my eyes / ’til the day that I die” – pushes forth a sense of passion that fans of the queer Netflix series ‘Heartstopper’ might recognise from the show’s third season date announcement.  

This track exudes, encapsulates and communicates pure emotion in every facet. 

An acoustic guitar embraces listeners in the middle of the record before divine billowing vocals breathe the words to ‘WILDFLOWER’. The first few lines – “things fall apart / and time breaks your heart” – are delivered with an air of fragility destined to make even the most steel of hearts weep from the wounds of their first love.  

The song continues with Eilish navigating the world of falling in love with someone while wrestling with guilt and the idea that she’s ‘crossing a line’.  

These rueful and complex feelings bubbling under pared-back instrumentation and candid vocals exemplify the reverence Eilish has for the muse despite the relationship inflicting pain on her. Just when the song appears to have ended, Eilish hits back with a choral reiteration of the third verse.  

Following the developing narrative, ‘THE GREATEST’ grapples with the sacrifices of self and her needs through a lens of devotion to another. The second chorus builds into the heightened instrumentation of the bridge that features electric guitar and sweeping vocal runs.  

The dial turns back bringing that quieter tone in for the last section of the song. This track is one of those moments in Eilish’s artistry where she pushes the constraints traditionally imposed on song structure by creatively transgressing the confines of genre and making her art truly her own.  

The seventh track ‘L’AMOUR DE MA VIE’ (which translates to ‘love of my life’) is one of the most surprising on the album and features some of the most devastating lyrics.  

The first part features lines like “thought I was depressed or losing my mind / my stomach upset almost all of the time” which hint towards the theory that one’s body knows whether someone is right for you and gives you clues through physiological responses.  

Further, Eilish differentiates herself from the subject saying “I was the love of your life / but you were not mine. The song goes on to describe the toxicity of relationships that feel impossible to leave due to power imbalances in the line “making me feel like it’d kill you if I tried to leave”.  

The turn occurs in part two after the refrain when the song transforms into a techno/dance-esque track with a distortion effect placed on the vocals which brings a startling sense of finality to the chapter. 

The strings and organs in the opening of ‘THE DINER’ will never not feel reminiscent of The Umbrella Academy series (at least for me). This song has a similar tone to her song ‘bury a friend’ and takes on a view seemingly separate from Eilish herself.  

Further into the song listeners are privy to the inner thoughts of someone experiencing the push and pull of obsession and love through the viewpoint of a criminal and accomplice. The song finishes on somewhat of an intermission or rest instead of ambling into the next track. 

A buzzing and intense sound follows the brief pause and ‘BITTERSUITE’, the penultimate track, is bestowed on the listener. The title is a little insight into the way Eilish plays with words and melding genres in these split part songs. The heartbeat rhythmic drum part before the instrumentation winds down is an understated approach to joining these two parts together auditorily. 

Eilish mentions the track ‘LA’AMOUR DE MA VIE’ in this second part before also referencing the chorus line of ‘CHIHIRO’, “open up the door” giving this conclusion atmosphere to the piece which then shifts into a notable synth lead fans have heard briefly before. 

Clocking in at 5:43, ‘BLUE’ is the longest track on the record and closes the album off nicely… especially because fans have been awaiting this particular song since a demo was leaked of Eilish’s unreleased track ‘True Blue’ on SoundCloud back at the start of 2022. Spoiler alert: ‘True Blue’ informs part of the melodic and lyrical content of ‘BLUE’ alongside another unreleased track ‘Born Blue’. 

In true Eilish fashion, ‘BLUE’ features a nod to each of the album’s tracks. We saw this in WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? with ‘goodbye’ tying up all the strings of the album, but ‘BLUE’ is substantially longer and covers more ground in contextualising each of the songs with one another in the HMHAS universe.

All in all, some of my favourite tracks were ‘WILDFLOWER’ and ‘LA’AMOUR DE MA VIE’, but this album is the true epitome of a no-skip record. 

(PS: I for one will personally be absolutely and unbelievably unhinged if ilomilo theory is correct – everyone has been forewarned!!)

By Louis Harrison

Header image credit: William Drumm

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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